The Indiana Pacers already own the league’s best record and will play seven of their next nine games at home.
That’s very bad news for the rest of the NBA.
The Pacers haven’t lost on their own court in six weeks, a streak they will put on the line Thursday night against a Phoenix Suns team seeking to complete a perfect four-game road trip.
Indiana (35-9) returns home after salvaging a winning road trip with a 104-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. David West scored 19 points, Lance Stephenson had 15 points and 14 rebounds, and the Pacers wrapped up their five-game trek with three wins.
”We’re pretty much dialed in,” said Paul George, who scored 14 points on 4-of-21 shooting. ”We’ve got to be able to accept nights where we’re not going to play well and use those games to get better moving forward. I think we’re moving steady.”
George’s team has been way more than steady at home, winning 21 of 22 games, including 10 straight since losing to Detroit on Dec. 16.
The Pacers have outscored opponents by an average of 15.8 points at home, and no team has scored more than 92 against them during the 10-game run.
Revenge will certainly be on the Pacers’ mind Thursday after suffering arguably their worst loss of the season, 124-100 at Phoenix on Jan. 22. The 124 points were the most they allowed under coach Frank Vogel, while the Suns shot 54.2 percent – including 11 of 16 from 3-point range – in their second-best performance of the season.
”Heck of an offensive performance by the Phoenix Suns,” Vogel said after that loss. ”Their shot-making was off the charts.”
The Suns (27-18) haven’t cooled off much since that victory, following a home loss with three straight wins on their four-game trip. They’ve averaged 116.3 points during that streak and had another hot-shooting night in a 126-117 victory over lowly Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Goran Dragic scored 10 of his 30 points in the game’s final 3:28, and former Pacer Gerald Green added 23 as the Suns shot 53.8 percent for the second straight game.
Dragic fell on his elbow late in the fourth quarter, forcing him to leave with 52 seconds remaining, and he and underwent x-rays following the game. Though they were negative, Dragic’s elbow was swollen and the point guard said he was, "a little bit concerned" about his status for the game against the Pacers, but added that he’s, "a quick healer."
Green has been a key for the Suns and will need to step up if Dragic isn’t 100 percent. He had a team-high 23 points in last week’s win against his former team and has totaled 53 over his last two games. He’s also been quite efficient of late, shooting 50.5 percent from the field in the past eight games, helping the Suns win six.
Phoenix, which hasn’t won four straight on the road since a five-game run Feb. 7-28, 2011, has won six of eight in Indiana. The Pacers, though, took last season’s meeting, 97-91 on Dec. 28, 2012.